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August 27, 2008

So it's Kimbo Slice vs. Ken Shamrock

Well, it’s official now. Kimbo Slice will fight Ken Shamrock in the main event of EliteXC’s Oct. 4 show, the next CBS event. I joked about it earlier in the week but they actually are going the route of Slice-Shamrock, which really shouldn’t be surprising.

Ken Shamrock is a big name, one most people are familiar with from his early UFC days and his stint as a pro wrestler. The one thing most people will miss, however, is that he’s not much of a fighter anymore. He’s lost seven of his last eight fights and is the very definition of a has-been. He hasn’t made it out of the first round successfully since 2005.

It’s clear now that Kimbo Slice is nothing more than a sideshow and that EliteXC is going to milk everything they can from him. It’s not a bad business move as this fight will certainly be well-hyped and should draw good TV numbers. It makes it even more clear, however, that EliteXC could care less about the sport’s future.

That main event is a freakshow. It’s a gimmick. And it sucks. I wish the UFC would get its act together and get a TV deal, or that a promotion like Affliction could get on primetime TV. Anyone who is willing to promote decent fighters.

The sad thing is EliteXC has some decent fighters, yet real fighters like Jake Shields won’t get half the promotion of Slice and Shamrock. Capitalizing on the YouTube fame and putting Slice somewhere on the card is one thing, but to promote him like he’s the greatest fighter in the world while scrambling to find fighters who won’t embarrass him is something different.
Naturally, the camp of Brett Rogers was fairly upset, and released a pretty scathing letter to fiveouncesofpain.com.

I was never big on Rogers fighting Slice but the letter is entertaining regardless.
The thing is, I don’t know that Shamrock, even though he’s lost a lot lately and is getting up there in years, is such an easy opponent for Slice. I would’ve liked Kimbo’s chances better against James Thompson than I do against Shamrock, and Slice should’ve lost to Thompson. Shamrock knows how to beat Slice, the question is whether or not he still has the athleticism to pull it off.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:45 PM | | Comments (9)
        

August 23, 2008

My shortlist of opponents for Kimbo Slice

According to FiveOuncesofPain.com, Kimbo Slice will not be fighting Boston-area police officer Sean Gannon in October. Who is Sean Gannon? The only person to defeat Kimbo Slice in a YouTube fight.

It became a popular rumor last week that Slice would get a rematch with Gannon at the October EXC show, which would’ve been another well-hyped match against a less-than-capable opponent for Slice. Another possible rumored bout, against Brett Rogers, seems to have fizzled out as well because EXC brass thinks Slice would lose and then the promotion’s biggest star would lose his draw. So, in an effort to protect Kimbo Slice but still find him an appealing opponent, I’ve compiled a list of interesting fighters he can beat.

1. Me: What better way for Slice to shove it to his critics than to beat one in the cage? Plenty of athletes hate the media, heck, plenty of people period aren’t fond of the media. This could be billed as "the rags-to-riches common man takes on corporate media" and it would sell big-time on national TV. EliteXC could put together promos with big catch phrases like "can Slice dodge the media’s liberal bias?" and "Kimbo Slice will give the media an exclusive knockout they will never forget."

2. Gina Carano: The UFC has several of its biggest stars on a collision course. B.J Penn and Georges St. Pierre. Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva. Why shouldn’t EXC do the same thing and have its two biggest stars square off in the cage? It would be the most relevant battle of the sexes in decades. Plus, Carano might be the most talented fighter Slice could defeat

3. The Undertaker: The whole "wrestling-to-MMA" angle has worked wonders with Brock Lesnar. Unfortunately, Lesnar is a world-class wrestler and an athletic freak who would destroy Slice. So, EXC would have to go for more of an entertainer than an athlete. The Undertaker has great name recognition and is a big guy, but he’s not the WWE’s most athletic wrestler and he’s no spring chicken.

4. Ken Shamrock: Here’s the most viable candidate of the group. He’s rumored to be one of the fighters EXC is considering putting up against Slice. Shamrock has name recognition from his past as a UFC fighter, but Slice should be able to fair well because Shamrock stopped fighting competitively a decade ago (give or take eight or nine years).

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 2:21 PM | | Comments (4)
        

MMA for kids

ESPN did an Outside the Lines on kids participating in MMA awhile back (find highlights here) and the question of whether or not youth should be involved in mixed martial arts is a question that I get asked a lot.

To me, it seems fairly simple: kids shouldn’t be doing it. At least not the way it's shown in some of the OTL clips. Kids sparring without headgear is just stupid. If kids are interested in it, there are a lot of different ways to go about it. The most obvious is going the wrestling route and developing the rest of your game when you are older. Another route, that seems easy enough to me, would be to have kids training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing (or even training Muay Thai) without sparring.

Kids can get the grappling side of things down or even learn techniques and strikes in Muay Thai. They shouldn’t be sparring until they are older and even then, they shouldn’t be working without headgear.

Does this make sense to anyone else? 

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 1:52 PM | | Comments (2)
        

August 17, 2008

Q&A with Chris Thomas

 Guest blogger Kye Stephenson is back in the mix. This time, he has an interview with Chris Thomas.

Chris Thomas is a Baltimore resident and highly respected figure in the mixed martial arts community. He has been involved in MMA since its infancy and is one of the few individuals given "all access" to MMA fighters and promoters. Currently, he co-hosts "Fight Club" on Sirius Satellite Radio. I was able to talk to Chris at length and get his insight into the current state of MMA, where he sees the sport going and what the future holds for MMA in Baltimore.

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS: How did you first become involved in Mixed Martial Arts?

THOMAS: In 1993 I was sitting with my karate instructor and class of students and we watched the first UFC. As I watched Royce Gracie beat everyone I thought to myself, "That's what I want to do." I became obsessed with the sport and I become known as "Chris the MMA guy."

I had a nutrition business, which I sold and started an MMA Web site. It was one of the first media outlets covering MMA. I met guys like Dana White, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Pat Miletich. 

I went to my first event in Rome, Georgia in 2000. It was in the middle of nowhere with about three thousand fans. On the card were Jens Pulver, Matt Hughes, Jeremy Horn and Rodrigo Nogueira. All these guys who became superstars of MMA. And these guys are amazing people. They could do anything. MMA is the triathlon of sports. If you ever go and see an event live, you will see something more impressive than any NBA Finals or Super Bowl.

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS: How did the show on Sirius come about?

THOMAS: I did a radio show in New Jersey for an IFL show. I met a guy there who worked for Sirius. He introduced me to some people and I initially ended up going on the show as a guest.  Within a couple shows, I became the co-host. We’re on every Tuesday and Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. We're doing well and look for us to be on more days as soon as the merger with XM goes through, whenever that happens. 

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS: What is your take on the Affliction event and its significance in the MMA world? 

THOMAS: Here is how I look at MMA – I think MMA is similar to NASCAR in that each individual promotion is their own car with their own budget, drivers, etc. The UFC is one car. Affliction is one car, EliteXC is one car, etc. Right now the UFC is lapping everyone because they’re constantly on.  Dana White wanted to be on free TV and he came through with his promise. The guys at Affliction had their clothing company and they started sponsoring a lot of top-notch fighters. I interviewed Randy Couture recently and he felt that the UFC basically banned Affliction because they wanted to affect him (editor's note: Affliction runs Randy’s Xtreme Couture clothing line). Affliction is on a different level when it comes to the heavyweight division. They have some great heavyweights and, of course, Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor is a different type of fighter. He is liquid in motion. His transitions are flawless and he is an economy of motion. Watching him is exactly what MMA is supposed to look like. 

I hope Affliction sticks around. They need more exposure. Donald Trump Jr. has been on my show and those guys are working hard to help the promotion and they seem to be about more than just the money. I hope Affliction makes it. It's good for the sport. It's good for the UFC and EliteXC.  This sport has proven that if you promote and put the fights people want to see, people will come. 

EliteXC was recently on CBS again and the UFC put on a re-run of UFC 84: Ill Will. Ill Will drew three million fans. Two million [fans] watched CBS, which proved established MMA can kick the ass of the networks. I think that was a watershed moment for the UFC showing their brand. EliteXC still got two million fans and the decrease was likely from not having Kimbo Slice or Gina Carano on the card. 

The UFC is just one version of what the sport looks like. The people that are new to the sport only see one version. There are other versions and people need to see other products. Let's face it, everyone talked about what they could do -- Dana White was the one guy who actually went to the Fertitta brothers and made it happen. Imagine going to your quarterly meetings and you lost $17 million. They lost $44 million until they turned it around. Not many people would continue to commit to that. But the car was already built -- Zuffa and Dana came along and put gas in that car and made it supercharged. Now Donald Trump has gotten involved and he's not a newcomer, he loves MMA and he has for a while. 

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS: You mentioned Randy Couture earlier. What is your opinion of his current legal situation with the UFC? Do you think he was justified in making some of the comments he’s made regarding his lack of pay and respect?

THOMAS: You have to realize that Randy wasn’t expected to win. They put him in as a sacrificial lamb and he surprised everyone and won. Nobody expected it. Randy deserves everything he gets. So does everyone -- including Tito Ortiz and other guys. They deserve to make at least what Dana White makes. They made the sport what it is. That's why I think Fedor is worth the money he made and ten times more. He is the guy these professional athletes look up to. At the Affliction show, if you look close, you will see boxing champion Zab Judah at the fight looking in awe at Fedor in the fight. 

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS:  What type of future do you see for MMA in Baltimore?

THOMAS: Baltimore is three years behind the sport right now. They're behind the curve and I don't know that Baltimore will ever be a big market. Can they be? I don't know. They haven't proven that promoters would want to be here. I'm cautiously optimistic. I work in New York, but I live in Baltimore and I would love to see the sport flourish here. I see us continuing to promote MMA in general and I believe I can be part of bringing the MMA community here together. I'm shooting a pilot TV show that's filmed in Maryland. It's an MMA variety show with John Rallo (editor's note: Rallo owns the mixed martial arts academy "Ground Control" in Baltimore) and myself.   

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS:  What do you see on the horizon for MMA in general?

THOMAS: I've already seen an evolution of the sport and I think that will continue. Imagine someone like Cung Le, who grew up in the traditional martial arts world and his first exposure. He was seeing karate guys get beat up. Now he is flourishing. We’re seeing the sport develop and grow constantly. The sport is not about violence. Honor is two athletes training their entire lives to compete against each other at the highest level. Most of these guys don’t hate each other and it’s a close community.

The state of New York right now is looking at the approval process to get MMA legalized in New York. I think we’ll see MMA at Madison Square Garden in 2009. That being said, the major companies really haven’t even jumped into the sport yet. I want to help continue to promote the sport at the highest level and be a face and name for the sport.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Q&As
        

August 10, 2008

UFC 87 quick thoughts

UFC 87 delivered in a huge way this weekend. For my money it was the best MMA card of the year to date. "Affliction: Banned" gave us Fedor’s return but not too much else and UFC 84 was very good as well but this show was outstanding. A few quick notes ...

* Demian Maia looked very good in submitting Jason MacDonald. There are a lot of people who only enjoy the standing and banging of a fight but this was technical and exciting at the same time.

* Kenny Florian did exactly what people expected him to do against Roger Huerta. He was more experienced and more technical and just a better all-around fighter. I really like Huerta and I hope he can get his contract worked out with the UFC, but Florian was the smarter fighter and the more well-rounded fighter.

* Cheick Kongo destroyed the random brawler he was given. Big shock there. I think the only surprise among the group I watched with was why they even put that fight into the main card. I know the fight before it lasted less than 30 seconds, but put it at the end if needed.

* Georges St. Pierre put together another dominant performance against Jon Fitch. I knew St. Pierre was a gifted fighter and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport but I thought Fitch would give him more trouble than he did. I still think Fitch is the No. 2 welterweight in the world but GSP showed he, like Anderson Silva, is in a class of his own. Fitch had a ton of heart and it was amazing at how quickly he recovered from some of St. Pierre’s strikes, but he couldn’t generate much offense. GSP is simply the better fighter in all areas, which led to a convincing all-around victory. His future match with B.J. Penn should be one for the ages.

* Brock ... freaking ... Lesnar. I picked him to win the fight but I was still floored with how he manhandled Heath Herring. Herring is a good fighter who has a ton of experience and has faced some of the best heavyweights in the sports history. Still, the rookie Lesnar destroyed him. Brock Lesnar is just a freak of nature. His upper body is scary. I think Lesnar’s conditioning wasn’t where it needed to be as he seemed to slow considerably in the second half of the fight but he did more than enough to pound out the win. I was shocked Herring wasn’t knocked out as Lesnar delivered some tremendous blows. The right hand from Lesnar to start the fight looked like a wrestling move after Herring fell backwards into a somersault. Lesnar still has some noticeable holes in his game but is rapidly climbing the depth chart in the heavyweight division.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 11:57 PM | | Comments (3)
        

August 8, 2008

UFC 87 links and the Brock Lesnar effect

First, a few links of excellent fight breakdowns for UFC 87.

CBS Sports has their experts pick the card.

The good people at Five Ounces of Pain analyze the fights.

And, the new fightticker.com has its panel predictions up, including one expert (me) who is simply brilliant.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson made his first public appearance at the UFC 87 press conference. It sounds like he’ll be back in action soon, but I think that could be a mistake. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him face Wanderlei Silva in December. It would be awesome, Silva would win, but I just hope Jackson is ready. If he’s not, I hope they give him someone easier to deal with.

Moving on to my biggest pet peeve when Brock Lesnar fights...

Brock Lesnar’s participation in the UFC has been a hot issue for a lot of media types and for fans. I realize he’s a former professional wrestler and he will probably never escape that. I also realize that many people aren’t happy with the push Lesnar has been given without “paying his dues.” I've talked to two such fighters -- Tim Sylvia and Brandon Vera -- who were unhappy with it. I also realize Lesnar is a huge draw, will help the event break attendance records (since it’s his homecoming) and will bring in a lot of pay-per-view buys.

Still, how much longer will we have to put up with things like this?

Here is an interview from SI.com with Lesnar. Most of it is fine, until you get to this brilliant question.

SI: How important is it that you and MMA don't head down the pro wrestling road and, instead, keep it real?

Yep. How important is it that you keep your sport legit instead of fabricating the action. Like Dana White is going to walk in one day and say to Chuck Liddell:

“Listen, this fight thing has been OK, but here’s how we take it to the next level. During your fight with Rashad Evans, I’m going to have one of the ring girls distract the official. It should be easy because he is so unprofessional that the mere sight of a female in skimpy clothing will command 100 percent of his attention. At that point, I’m going to enter the octagon and hit Evans in the face with a steel chair. Then, after the fight, I’m going to come in and raise your hand while people shower us with pop bottles and other garbage.”

Lesnar handled the question like a pro and I’m sure he has been asked stupid questions before, but how could anyone at a real media outlet pose that question?

Is anyone asking Gary Bettman questions like, "how important is it for hockey to be played on ice? Is it important to keep the game on ice instead of on a field and played no sticks and a ball instead of a puck?"

Lesnar will ultimately be good for the UFC, especially with the heavyweight division falling apart, but this type of thing gets old very fast.

 

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 3:58 PM | | Comments (1)
        

August 6, 2008

UFC 87 predictions

Just filed my predictions for a number of different places. I know the economy is tight these days, so print this post, take it to Vegas, and almost double your money thanks to my brilliance.

Actually, I'm going with the three favorites. I've never picked three favorites in a row because things just don't shake down that way. I could see any of these fights going the other way, but it's uncomfortable to sit on the fence forever. 

Georges St. Pierre vs. Jon Fitch: A lot of people seem to be buying stock in GSP these days and it’s not without merit. However, we’ve seen him overlook opponents before (well, once). And I think Fitch is the best fighter Rush has faced since B.J. Penn. He does a lot of things well and is great on the ground. After all of that, I just can’t see Fitch winning this fight. I’ve tried to convince myself for awhile now, but St. Pierre is just too well-rounded and too focused on Fitch. Fitch was an outstanding collegiate wrestler, but we’ve seen St. Pierre handle that before without much trouble (Josh Koscheck). I’ll take St. Pierre in a third-round submission.

Kenny Florian vs. Roger Huerta: I really like Kenny Florian. I think he’s got the superior jiu-jitsu and the better stand-up. I like Huerta’s power, but I feel that Florian is the better fighter. This could very well be the fight of the night and if it goes the distance, I think Florian takes it. Huerta’s best chance is to go for the knockout. Huerta is never out of a fight though, which is why this should be a great one. I’m taking Florian in a unanimous decision, partly in hope that we’ll get to see several great rounds of action.

Brock Lesnar vs. Heath Herring: This is the hardest fight to pick, mainly because we have no idea of what Lesnar is capable of. We’ve seen only a few seconds of him against good competition. He should be able to take down Herring at will and Lesnar has power. Lesnar’s exceptional wrestling doesn’t help Herring as he’s shown problems on the ground against wrestlers worse than Lesnar. Still, Herring is a very experienced fighter who has faced some of the top fighters in the world. He hasn’t beaten any of them, but experience counts for something. Herring isn’t a guy that will go down quickly either -- he’ll last awhile. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lesnar gassed halfway through the fight as his cardio is another question. He looked fine in 36 seconds, but hopefully we’ll get more this time around. I don’t think Herring is nearly as big an underdog as Vegas makes him, but I’ll give the nod to Lesnar in a second-round TKO.

Click here for a photo gallery of UFC 87 fighters.
 

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 7:24 PM | | Comments (2)
        

August 4, 2008

Getting ready for UFC 87

We are days away from UFC 87 and this is the card I’ve been looking forward to all summer. Affliction: Banned should go down as the most important event of the summer because it showed that Fedor is still one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but Saturday’s pay-per-view in Minnesota has some very interesting bouts.

The main event is Georges St. Pierre defending his welterweight championship against Jon Fitch. Most people don’t know a lot about Fitch, but hopefully that doesn’t make them take him lightly. Fitch is a very good fighter and one of the best welterweights St. Pierre has faced in awhile. Depending on your point of view on Matt Hughes, Fitch may be the best opponent St. Pierre has faced since B.J. Penn. I'm leaning towards St. Pierre, but it could be closer than a lot of people think.

The Kenny Florian-Roger Huerta fight should be excellent, but the fight I find the most intriguing is Brock Lesnar against Heath Herring. Both fighters desperately need a win. A lot of hopes are pinned on Lesnar for the UFC’s heavyweight future and he could be a terrifying fighter. Herring also needs a win because his UFC run has been less than impressive. Lesnar is no Fedor, but a win over him would be Herring’s best UFC win.

Of course, Lesnar excels at one key area -- wrestling. Herring’s big flaw is wrestling and he’s not very good on the ground. On paper, Lesnar should be able to defeat Herring handily. Herring isn’t a bad fighter though and he’s working with some smart people, so I think this could be a closer fight than people think. Lesnar is a fighter with plenty of flaws, but I’m not sure Herring will have the tools to execute. With three big fights, this weekend is shaping up nicely.

I’m turning my picks in on Tuesday -- who do you take?

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:14 PM | | Comments (3)
        
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Kevin Richardson has been a fan of mixed martial arts competition ever since UFC 3, when 600-pound sumo wrestler Emmanuel Yarborough was beaten by Keith Hackney. Kevin will cover the world of MMA — in Baltimore, nationally and internationally. He plans to take readers into the locker rooms and MMA schools, where they'll hear from local fighters and trainers. If you have a news tip or suggestions for the blog, please e-mail him.

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